SGS Looking Ahead

The current pandemic presents us with unprecedented challenges in our academic and personal lives. With more than 19,000 graduate students from a range of diverse research-stream and professional programs across three campuses, supporting students requires compassion, flexibility, and creativity.

Our approach to supporting graduate students prioritizes the health, wellness and safety of students; recognizes the diversity in the student body and in learning opportunities; seeks to minimize the financial impact of disruptions while facilitating academic progress; and recognizes that the impacts of COVID-19 on students are both uneven and evolving.  

The following FAQs discuss research activities, students in professional programs, personal accommodations, and financial supports.

In addition to this page, please refer to the following pages:

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact us.

Research Recovery and Adaptation for Graduate Students

General Approach to Research Recovery and Adaptation

Research continuity planning for students in research-stream and select professional programs begins with meeting with your supervisor and/or your supervisory committee. An individual and flexible approach to graduate research continuity planning will be needed given that impacts of COVID-19 on students are both uneven and evolving. Some students—either because of the nature or stage of their research or because of their personal circumstances—will be more profoundly affected by this pandemic than others.

You should have received a COVID-19 Mentoring Form that encourages a dialogue between you and your supervisor about potential research disruption as well as potential mitigating strategies for research continuity. If you haven’t received this form, please contact your graduate coordinator.  As the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on students’ research may not be seen for some time yet, documenting disruptions now may help to inform future planning to mitigate any disruptions and address degree completion.

If your research has been affected by COVID-19 restrictions, we recommend an individual and staged approach. The diagram below provides a visual representation.

Transition

Consider transitioning your time and attention to other academic learning activities that advance your progress towards degree completion and overall professional preparation (e.g., writing literature reviews, methodology, or discussion sections of thesis/dissertation; preparation of a publication; coursework; engaging in professional development activities such as GCAC and GPS offerings). This option means waiting until you can carry out your planned data collection, so speak with your supervisor, about how long you should wait before shifting to the next option.

Pivot

Another option to consider, (in consultation with your supervisor and/or supervisory committee), is pivoting the planned thesis/dissertation so you can make academic progress. Pivoting may take the form of revising aspects of a research question or objectives, the methodological approach or methods, or analyses. This may be a relevant mitigation strategy if you haven’t started data collection, or if you’re in the early stages of the program.

Extend

In some cases, pivoting research won’t be possible or the research disruptions are so significant that you may require additional time beyond the program length to complete your program requirements.

Students who:

  • were making good progress with their research before the pandemic, but whose data collection or access to necessary sources and materials has been significantly impeded due to COVID-19 related disruptions,
  • have completed all feasible alternative academic activities,
  • now need additional time beyond the program length,

may apply for additional time with tuition fees waived (non-tuition ancillary and incidental fees will still be charged). Click here for more information.

FAQs for Various Scenarios and Program Types

Students in Research-Stream Programs

In addition to the FAQs below, please see the SGS Research Engagement/Re-Engagement Guidelines.

Consider transitioning your time and attention to other academic learning activities that advance your progress towards degree completion and overall professional preparation (e.g., writing literature reviews, methodology or discussion sections of thesis/dissertation; preparing a publication; coursework; engaging in professional development activities such as GCAC and GPS offerings).

This option means waiting until you can carry out your planned data collection, so speak with your supervisor about how long you should wait before shifting to the next option. (e.g., are there alternative modes of collecting data/information considering COVID-19 related restrictions?).

Depending on the nature of the research and how far along you are in the degree program, there are several options to consider:

  1. Transition your time and attention to other academic learning activities that advance your progress towards degree completion and overall professional preparation (e.g., writing literature reviews, methodology or discussion sections of thesis/dissertation; preparing a publication; coursework; engaging in professional development activities such as GCAC and GPS offerings).

    This option means waiting until you can carry out your planned data collection, so speak with your supervisor about how long you should wait before shifting to the next option. 
  2. Pivot your planned thesis/dissertation (in consultation with your supervisor and/or supervisory committee) so you can make academic progress. Pivoting may take the form of revising aspects of a research question or objectives, the methodological approach or methods, or analyses. This may be a relevant strategy if you haven’t started data collection or if you’re in the early stages of the program. 
  3. Depending on where you were in your research when COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, you may want to speak with your supervisory committee about whether you have sufficient data to complete the thesis/dissertation or whether you could undertake alternative tasks to complete  (e.g., additional analyses of data)?
  4. The interruption to your thesis/dissertation might be so substantial that you won’t be able to finish your degree within the identified program length. Students who were making progress with their thesis/dissertation before the pandemic, but whose data collection or access to necessary sources/materials have been significantly impeded due to COVID-19, who have completed all feasible alternative academic activities, and who need time beyond the program length, may apply for registration with a tuition waiver. Please see below for more information about applying for additional time beyond program length.

With the support of your supervisory committee, consider pivoting your research plans (e.g., revising  aspects of a research question or objectives, methodological approach, methods, data collection procedures), and/or data used for the thesis/dissertation.

For some students, pivoting research may enable them to complete the degree within the program length but others will need more time. Students who were making good progress with their research before the pandemic, but whose data collection or access to necessary sources and materials has been significantly impeded due to COVID-19, who have completed all feasible alternative academic activities, and who end up requiring additional time beyond the program length, may be permitted to register with a tuition fee exemption for up to one academic session. This duration may be re-assessed if needed. Non-tuition ancillary and incidental fees will still be charged. 

Students who were making good progress with their research before the pandemic, but whose data collection or access to necessary sources and materials has been significantly impeded due to COVID-19, who have completed all feasible alternative academic activities, and who ends up requiring additional time beyond the program length will be exempt from tuition for up to one academic session. This duration may be re-assessed as the situation evolves. Students will still be charged the usual non-tuition ancillary, incidental and system access fees that are associated with the registration session. Click here for more information.

Graduate students who demonstrate that their academic progress was significantly impeded due to COVID-19 related disruptions, will have the option to register with a tuition exemption for up to one academic session. This duration may be re-assessed as the situation evolves. Students will still be charged the usual non-tuition ancillary, incidental and system access fees that are associated with the registration session.

If it is apparent  that additional time will be needed, you may apply for additional registration with a tuition exemption. If it becomes apparent further along in your program that the COVID-19 related disruptions will necessitate additional time, you may apply for additional registration with a tuition exemption at a later date. It would be helpful to document any disruptions now and record your progress until the end of your program. One way to start documenting these developments is to complete the COVID-19 Mentoring Form.

The criteria for approving registration with a tuition fee exemption are as follows:

  1. Students were making good progress with their thesis/dissertation prior to COVID-19 and data collection or access to necessary sources has been significantly impeded due to pandemic-related impacts (e.g., labs closed, fieldwork cancelled, access to materials, archives or library sources has been impeded, personal circumstances).
  2. Additional work is needed before the thesis/dissertation can be defended (e.g., insufficient data or material).
  3. All feasible alternative academic activities (e.g., writing sections of dissertation or publications, coursework, professional development) have been completed.
  4. The revised research plan will require additional time.
  5. Supervisory committee agrees that conditions (1) through (4) have been met.
  6. Departmental/SGS approval.

A number of faculties are offering new COVID-19 research pivot funding to help with additional costs associated with pivoting. You may be eligible if your research or other learning activities are no longer available (e.g., data collection or access to other necessary information has been significantly impeded due to COVID-19 and/or data have been lost; there are insufficient data to defend a thesis/dissertation; and, all feasible alternative academic activities have been completed).

COVID-19 research pivot funding helps students re-direct research impacted by COVID-19 in ways that enable them to resume research activities. These funds are to be used to assist with additional costs incurred as a result of pivoting the research. While there is agreement in principle to make pivot funds available to eligible students, faculties are currently planning for the development of criteria and processes for the allocation of this funding. More information will be made available to students by July 1, 2020.

Yes, a notation has been placed on student transcripts stating the following:

“In the 2019-20 academic year, the University of Toronto was affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Instructional methods were modified and some students were graded on the University’s approved credit/no credit scale for courses completed in Winter 2020. For more information, see: https://www.transcripts.utoronto.ca/transcriptguide/.

Students in Professional Programs

In addition to the FAQs below, please see the SGS Research Engagement/Re-Engagement Guidelines.

In most cases, faculties have made adjustments to ensure students are still able to meet their program requirements in a timely way. Please contact your program coordinator or chair to learn more.

Transition

Consider transitioning your time and attention to other academic learning activities that advance your progress towards degree completion and overall professional preparation (e.g., writing literature reviews, methodology or discussion sections of thesis/dissertation; preparing a publication; coursework; engaging in professional development activities such as GCAC and GPS offerings). This option means waiting until you can carry out your planned data collection, so speak with your supervisor about how long you should wait before shifting to the next option. 

Pivot

Another option to consider (in consultation with your supervisor and/or supervisory committee) is pivoting the planned thesis/dissertation so you can make academic progress. Pivoting may take the form of revising aspects of a research question or objectives, the methodological approach or methods, or analyses. This may be a relevant strategy if you haven’t started data collection or if you’re in the early stages of the program. 

Extend

In some cases, pivoting research won’t be possible or the research disruptions are so significant that you require additional time to complete program requirements.

Students who:

  • were making good progress with their research before the pandemic, but whose data collection or access to necessary sources/materials has been significantly impeded
  • have completed all feasible alternative academic activities
  • now need additional time beyond the program length

may apply for additional time with tuition fees waived (non-tuition ancillary and incidental fees will still be charged).  

Students Conducting Research in Hospitals

In addition to the FAQs below, please see the SGS Research Engagement/Re-Engagement Guidelines.

For research hosted at third party sites (e.g., community organization, Indigenous community, private sector partner, or affiliated hospital), these host institutions will decide on readiness to open. Graduate students will need to follow any additional restrictions set out by the host organization.

If you are a member of a research group led by a faculty member and intend to return to the research site, you are required to complete the COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research SiteWhen completed, please submit it to your supervisor/principal investigator.

If you are not a member of a research group but conduct research individually under the supervision of a faculty member, you will need to complete the COVID-19 Graduate Students/Non-Employee Postdoctoral Fellows Acknowledgement: Conducting Research On-Campus or at Off-Campus Research SiteWhen completed, please submit it to your supervisor/principal investigator.

Graduate students with employment relationships with hospitals will continue to follow policies, procedures and protocols of their hospital employer. For more information on guidance for hospitals to ramp-up research, please refer to ‘TAHSN Hospital-Based Academic Recovery Strategy & Guidelines’.

Work together with your faculty supervisor to develop a mutually agreeable plan that allows for you to start or return gradually to on-campus or off-campus research as circumstances and your ability to return permit. If you and your supervisor cannot reach a mutually agreeable plan, please connect with your graduate chair or coordinator for assistance. If additional assistance is needed, please contact sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca.

For graduate students conducting research at an affiliated hospital site and/or with an employment relationship with the hospital, please consult with policies, procedures and protocols of the hospital.

To address safety and public health directives, each department and research institute may sequence the opening of buildings and laboratories/studios or off-campus research. In addition, faculty mentors/PIs may sequence the start or restart of projects within their research programs. The principles of equity and inclusion, the requirement for physical distancing, consideration for restart capacity, graduate student research completion, and the nature of research collaborations and funding, may necessitate the need to prioritize certain research types, groups or locations during the initial gradual phased return to work.

Each of these decisions should recognize that every graduate student has an individual need to make degree progress, and that such degree progress is potentially impacted by the sequencing of the restart. Further, each of these decisions will also be impacted by individual student’s personal circumstances. Departments, research institutes and faculty mentors should clearly communicate restart plans, so that graduate students can determine how to allocate their time between remote and on-campus or off-campus research activities during the research engagement/re-engagement. It is important to recognize that these new plans may look quite different than what had been expected previously.

At this time, any research that involves face-to-face in-person contact will not restart on- or off-campus (although there may be rare exceptions which will require specific prior approval, a process available through your supervisor). Virtual or remote (e.g., surveys) research with human participants is encouraged where appropriate. For hospital-based research, it will be up to the hospital’s policies, procedures and protocols. Additional institutional directives, based on government directives, will be developed to inform such research. For more information on REB review involving human participants, please visit the REB’s webpage.

PhD students planning to travel abroad for dissertation research during this time should contact safety.abroad@utoronto.ca. Given the current situation, there are significant travel restrictions and it will be difficult for you to make travel arrangements. We encourage you to postpone or shift your travel to a later date if you’re able to do so. If your work abroad can be carried out safely and in consideration of government advisories regarding travel, you may be able to proceed. Safety Abroad will work with you, your supervisor, and your academic unit to minimize disruption to your research.

Graduate students engaged in hospital-based research should consult with the policies of the hospital on international travel, including quarantine requirements for hospitals once they return from any potential travel.

The University is planning to open some research facilities slowly and gradually. During this time, other buildings on campus remain closed. As soon as we are able to confirm that other on-campus activities can resume (in the current context these will still be with restrictions), we will prioritize students who need access to on-campus material and space to progress in their research. All work that can be done remotely must continue to be done remotely. If a visit to campus is permitted, complete this work as efficiently as possible and then continue to work from home.

Due to the ongoing restrictions on the use of space, supervisors may need to gradually permit research team members to return and to implement the use of shifts in order to adhere to physical distancing requirements. As supervisors have a responsibility to mitigate risk, your supervisor may encourage you to work from home if your physical presence in the research space is not needed for your academic progress.

If you have a pre-existing or new health issue that increases susceptibility to COVID-19 and/or increases the severity of COVID-19 related symptoms, you should continue to work from home. If you need academic accommodation, please consult with Accessibility Services.

If someone you live with that has a pre-existing or new health issue that increases susceptibility to COVID-19 and/or increases the severity of COVID-19 related symptoms, you should continue to work from home. If you need academic consideration, please consult with your supervisor or graduate chair.

In some circumstances, if you are engaged in hospital-based research, you may have to liaise with the hospital’s Occupation Health Department/ Human Resources/Supervisor for any accommodations.

There are a number of possible options you may discuss with your supervisor to address this situation, for example: working remotely; pivoting your research plans; or travelling to campus in off-hours when transit is less busy. As the local conditions change, please discuss with your supervisor.

If you have caregiving responsibilities that make a return to the research site impossible, please discuss the possibility of working remotely with your supervisor. Pivoting your research plans to enable ongoing remote work may also be an option to discuss with your supervisor. If, after discussion with your supervisor, it is concluded that neither working remotely nor pivoting your research plans is feasible, a leave may be considered at an appropriate time. Please be assured that the decision to take a leave in this case remains the prerogative of the student.

The first step is to try to reach a mutually satisfactory research plan with your supervisor but if these attempts have been unsuccessful, the next step is to contact your graduate coordinator/chair. If a resolution has not been reached at this level, please contact SGS at sgs.vdeanstudents@utoronto.ca.

It is important that you notify others of your concerns to protect the health and safety of all involved. Please talk with your supervisor/PI first, and if it is not resolved, please contact ehs.office@utoronto.ca.

If you are engaged in hospital-based research, please contact the Occupation Health department at the hospital, and in addition, we also recommend that you get in touch with graduate coordinators and chairs if you have concerns.

The first resource is within your department or Faculty through graduate chairs or coordinators or a designated ombudsperson within the department or program. Outside of the department or program, the School of Graduate Studies is an important resource.

Everyone should stay home, not work, and self-isolate if they have flu-like symptoms.

If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing etc.), please follow this Ontario Ministry of Health self-assessment tool.

A number of dedicated assessment centres have been established across the Greater Toronto Region to facilitate assessment and testing. Information on locations is available on local public health websites including Toronto and Peel Region.

If you are advised by a public health authority that you have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact ehs.occhealth@utoronto.ca immediately. If you are engaged in hospital-based research, please also contact the hospital’s Occupation Health department in addition to the above indicated contacts.

If you test positive for COVID-19please notify U of T’s Occupational Health Nurse immediately by email at ehs.occhealth@utoronto. If you are engaged in hospital-based research, please also contact the hospital’s Occupation Health department.

Personal Accommodations

Students are experiencing varying levels of personal challenges in the current pandemic. Within our community, some are at the front lines of the health emergency, either because they have lost loved ones or fallen sick themselves, or because they’re braving the risks of exposure in hospitals and other sites of essential services.

Many can work from home and are eligible for government supports. Others aren’t eligible for government supports, have lost outside jobs, and find themselves experiencing significant financial hardships. And those with caregiver responsibilities or accessibility challenges may be finding it particularly challenging to work from home and advance their academic work. Students living with disabilities or health concerns may also be experiencing an exacerbation of symptoms that may impact their academic progress. The University has several supports and resources available for  students in these challenging time.

Students may take a leave at any time for a variety of reasons, including COVID-19 and the decision to take a leave must remain with the student. Students who had been accessing care from Health & Wellness prior to the start of their leave, maintain uninterrupted access to healthcare without opting in. Access to UTGSU health and dental plan coverage is available for a fee. Students on leave may request continued access to library services (no fee). During this leave, funding is paused and tuition fees aren’t charged.

Please be assured that COVID-19 is an acceptable reason for personal leave and taking such a leave will not negatively impact time-to-completion, funding when you return from leave, or jeopardize future access to leaves of absence.

Consider meeting with your graduate coordinator or supervisor to discuss options other than taking a leave. For example, personal circumstances may affect your capacity to engage in academic work, but you may be able to continue with interventions like course extensions or temporary modification of academic activities.

If your health concerns are impacting your academic progress (courses, research, comprehensive examinations, proposal and dissertation writing), contact Accessibility Services to connect with an accessibility advisor and explore your options. These may include extensions, assessment accommodations, or leaves, where appropriate.

If you’re struggling are encouraged to explore these mental health resources and if the issues feel urgent, make an appointment with a counsellor at Health & Wellness or on-location for short-term individual counselling.

The Family Care Office provides services and resources to meet diverse family needs including childcare and eldercare.

Students who are unable to progress academically due to COVID19-related caregiving responsibilities may need additional time beyond the program length to complete program requirements. If your academic progress was significantly impeded due to COVID-19 related disruptions, you will have the option to register with a tuition exemption for up to one academic session. This duration may be re-assessed as the situation evolves. You’ll still be charged the usual non-tuition ancillary, incidental and system access fees that are associated with the registration session.

Financial Support

The funding commitments made to you in the annual funding letter of summer/fall 2019 remain in effect.

There may be new or existing funding available within your faculty or department, or from the Principal Investigator/Supervisor, to support your research beyond the program length. This might include, for example, a Doctoral Completion Award, RAships/TAships/GRAships, PI stipendiary support, or emergency grants.

Yes, graduate students may be eligible for COVID-19 student bursaries offered by divisions or by SGS. These bursaries support students who are unable to make progress due to non-academicreasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. care-giving responsibilities, illness, etc.).

Updates on relevant funding information, can also be found on the new Funding Opportunity Directory that provides resources on University financial aid supports as well as provincial and federal government programs. 

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Newly Admitted Students and Fall 2020 Update

We look forward to welcoming you to exciting academic and co-curricular learning opportunities. In preparation for welcoming you, we’re carefully considering the implications that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the fall term’s learning environment.

This is a stressful time for everyone – a time of many questions, challenges and uncertainties. We’re committed to finding ways to allow newly enrolled students, including international students, to begin their studies at the University of Toronto in the 2020-21 academic year, regardless of potential restrictions that may be in place in September.

Your health and the health of the community remain our priorities during this pandemic and throughout the gradual lifting of restrictions. We would very much like to return to in-person education in September, but if our public health officials recommend against this, we will continue to deliver educational content remotely. As a world-class university, we have high-quality resources available to instructors and students, allowing effective teaching and learning in remote environments. Our outstanding faculty members will continue to work with students, offering the high quality of teaching and mentorship for which U of T is known.  

If travel restrictions continue and prohibit you from entering Canada for the fall term, please contact your supervisor or graduate coordinator for further guidance.

We’re working closely with public health authorities to determine when and how to facilitate a safe return to campus, classrooms and research spaces this fall. Although on-campus activities may be modified, your U of T experience will begin this September. There will be many valuable opportunities for you to interact and collaborate with your peers and to engage in important co-curricular activities to round out an exceptional student experience. Additional academic supports will be provided remotely through the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication and the Graduate Professional Development program.

The Division of Student Life will provide remote opportunities to orient you to university life, help to develop a sense of community, and bolster your personal health and well-being. For international students, the Centre for International Experiences provides high-quality programming to welcome you to Canada and the University of Toronto. Although there is uncertainty today about the extent of disruption we face, we’re well-equipped and committed to providing you with an exceptional graduate student experience.

For some students access to placements, internships and other experiential learning opportunities may continue to be restricted in the fall term. If this occurs, your graduate supervisor or graduate coordinator will be able to provide you with an alternative plan of study such as postponing these endeavours until a later date or meeting the learning outcomes of these experiences in alternative ways. If your placement or internship is required for accreditation purposes, your graduate unit will develop an alternative plan for you to meet these requirements.

For some students, access to research opportunities in the lab or in the field may continue to be restricted or impeded in the fall term. If this occurs, your graduate supervisor or graduate coordinator will be able to provide you with an alternative plan of study such as moving some research opportunities online or postponing research endeavours and replacing these with other learning opportunities.

Academic Continuity

As of March 16 and continuing until at least April 3, all graduate courses across U of T’s three campuses are being delivered through alternative means (which may include existing online platforms). You will receive details about courses and revised session dates from your graduate program directly. Please contact your program with any questions. 

Graduate students now have until April 25 to drop full-year or winter session courses without academic penalty.

Most departmental examinations (e.g. qualifying, comprehensive, and/or general examinations) can take place without physical presence. More information will follow from your graduate program regarding arrangements for the completion of departmental examinations in your program. 

Please refer to your graduate program for further information. 

Graduate students registered with Accessibility Services should continue to contact Accessibility Services to receive accommodations and supports. 

Please see FAQ 1.10 on the U of T COVID-19 page.

We know this situation brings a whole new level of stress for everyone – and some will feel this harder than others. Please know that if you are struggling, there are excellent resources you can use. The University has a list of helpful Quick Links to health resources

Contact your graduate administrator. Doctoral thesis exams continue to be held on a remote basis during the period of the university closure. Your graduate administrator will follow the usual processes for confirming the exam committee, and booking the exam with the School of Graduate Studies. Exams need to be booked at least 6-8 weeks in advance of the defence date.  The pro-rated fee schedule remains in effect for Final Year doctoral students, available on the Student Accounts website

Yes, all exams are being held remotely while the university buildings are closed. Please contact your unit graduate administrator for more details on which modality will be used. Keep in mind that doctoral thesis examinations are closed to the public, and your administrator will provide you with a form that confirms you are defending from a secure location. The pro-rated fee schedule remains in effect for Final Year doctoral students, available on the Student Accounts website

Graduate Research

In addition to the FAQs below, please see the General Approach to Research Recovery and Adaptation above as well as the SGS Research Engagement/Re-Engagement Guidelines.

We understand that this is a highly stressful time for many of you and we remain committed to providing you with highly engaged academic support. The expectations outlined in the Graduate Supervision Guidelines still apply and students and supervisors should be discussing how graduate research will be adapted to address the current situation. The School of Graduate Studies will be updating resources to facilitate distant graduate supervision in the upcoming days and they will be posted here

All lab-based research operations, other than critical COVID-19 research and time-sensitive critical projects, have been shut down as of 5:00 pm on Friday March 20, 2020. Other research settings, including many off-campus sites, are also shutting down. Please stay informed of the status of activities in your own research setting. In many cases, plans for future research may also need to be changed and contingency plans developed. Consult with your research supervisor about your planning. Please also consult the website of the Office of Vice-President Research and Innovation which will be updated daily. 

Beginning June 22, Robarts Library will offer Curbside Pickup Service for print books not available through the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service. Students, faculty and staff are eligible to use this service with online requests for books beginning on June 18. To meet the needs of current University of Toronto students who require computer and Wi-Fi access for academic work, the Libraries will also be providing a Technology Access Service at the Gerstein Science Information Centre starting June 18. Click here to learn more.

We continue to support you in searching out e-resources for all your research and study needs:

Please see FAQ 2.2 on the U of T’s COVID-19 information page.

Financial Support and Funding Opportunities

The University of Toronto is working to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing emergency financial support and work-study opportunities for students. The new Funding Opportunity Directory provides resources to access those university financial aid supports as well as provincial and federal government programs. The Directory will be updated as new initiatives are introduced.

Funded graduate students, including those on stipends, will continue to receive their funding packages as stated in their funding letters. Current TA contracts may need to be adjusted to reflect the fact that undergraduate courses are no longer in-person, but the overall number of hours allocated in the contracts will not be reduced. 

Are you currently traveling with the support of an SGS grant? If you must either extend or shorten your trip due to COVID-19, request a reassessment by submitting an SGS Travel Special Circumstances Form along with the usual SGS Conference / Research Travel Grant Payment Activation Form.  

Did you postpone your travel and have to cancel or pay to reschedule your pre-purchased travel arrangements? Access the SGS Emergency Grant to help cover the unexpected additional travel costs due to COVID-19.

Have you received an offer for a 2019-2020 SGS Research Travel Grant and/or SGS Conference Grant and have yet to travel as planned? You may use the SGS Change Request Form to change, defer, or decline the grant, or reapply if necessary.

Did you recently submit an SGS Research Travel Grant application but can no longer travel on the expected dates due to travel restrictions? Submit a new SGS Research Travel Grant Application before the extended deadline of May 29, 2020, or reapply at a later competition once travel restrictions have been lifted. Fortunately, the nature of the program has built-in flexibility that allows for students to enter their estimated travel dates (up to April 30, 2021 for the current application cycle). If a travel grant is awarded, students may request changes to dates and destination(s) through the Change Request Form, and their awarded grant amount will be adjusted accordingly.

If you are experiencing immediate financial hardship, you can apply for an SGS Emergency Loan or SGS Emergency Grant. Please also check your department websites for possible additional resources. 

International Students and Students in International Locations

Students may complete up to 50 percent of their program outside of Canada. Please visit the Government of Canada website for complete information on how COVID-19 impacts international students and post-graduation work permits (PGWP).

The situation is evolving rapidly in many parts of the world and travel restrictions may be imposed on short notice. Travellers arriving in Toronto could face a period of self-isolation or quarantine. 

It is recommended that you consult the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 travel advisory website and the travel section of the U of T’s frequently asked questions

Refer to question 5 on the Vice-Provost, Students FAQs for International Students.

Faculty and Staff

The Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation (CTSI) has resources to help instructors with continuity planning, including a checklist and quick guide. CTSI staff are available assist instructors in dealing with COVID-19-related changes to teaching.  

Email:  q.help@utoronto.ca    
Website: teaching.utoronto.ca   

At this time, students do not need a doctor’s note or medical certificate for cold or flu-related absences, or for self-isolation. Students should record cold or flu-related absences, as well as self-isolation absences, through the Absence Declaration tool on ACORN (under the Acorn Profile and Settings menu). 

Some faculties have alternate or supplementary requirements when reporting absences, so please contact your Registrar’s Office if you have questions. Graduate students can contact SGS at graduate.information@utoronto.ca with any questions or requests for modifications.  

Absences for other illnesses should continue to be documented through the Verification of Illness (VOI) form and normal Faculty processes.  

To enable doctoral candidates to complete their degrees in a timely manner, SGS is temporarily waiving the current SGS guidelines for FOEs that prohibit the remote participation of the candidate and limit the remote participation of members of the examination committee to two per exam. As of March 18, 2020, all examinations must be held remotely.  

This is a temporary arrangement, which has been put in place as a response to building closures at the university, travel disruptions, and the need for social distancing and/or isolation. The UofT community will be notified in advance of a phased return to normal operations. Running a FOE will require slightly different processes; please contact the Program Completion Office for details.

At this time, there are no changes to graduation deadlines; coursework, thesis submissions and degree recommendations for masters’ students are due on April 17. Grade submission deadlines may be extended beyond what can be accommodated for graduation. If you require a graduation deadline extension, please contact Lisa Haley to arrange an extension. Tentative degree recommendations will be required on April 17, to be confirmed by the arranged extension date. 

For graduate students intending to graduate in June – Grades should be submitted by the existing deadline of Friday, April 17. If units believe there is a need to extend the deadline for grade submissions for these students, please indicate this to Josie Lalonde, Director, Student Academic Services, SGS as soon as possible. SGS will accommodate late submissions up until Friday, May 15, however in these cases we do require tentative degree recommendations by Friday, April 17.

Degree Recommendation Forms remain due on April 17 to the SGS Graduate Program Completion Office as per the original deadline. If final grades are not yet available due to an approved grade submission extension or a delayed defence etc., units may contact Lisa Haley regarding the possibility of submitting a “tentative” degree recommendation on April 17. Although convocation ceremonies haven been cancelled, graduation will take place in absentia and normal graduation deadlines remain. 

For graduate students not intending to graduate in June – SGS is relaxing the existing requirement to seek SGS approval for an extension to the grade submission deadline. Instead, a blanket change has been made to extend the deadline for grade submissions to Friday, June 5. Units retain the right to identify an earlier internal deadline if they wish. Grades submitted prior to June 5 will be available to be viewed by students on ACORN beginning Wednesday, May 13.

Educational Testing Service (ETS) has launched an at home testing solution for the TOEFL iBT test for students who have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and online testing is now available worldwide, with some exceptions. Please see the ETS website for the most up-to-date information.

We encourage U of T’s graduate units to be flexible with deadlines and to understand that score delays are through no fault of the test taker. 

If the situation persists and you experience problems with your unit’s enrolment management, please contact SGS for further support at admissions.sgs@utoronto.ca

Educational Testing Service (ETS) has launched an at-home testing solution for the TOEFL iBT and GRE General tests for students who have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) and online testing is now available worldwide, with some exceptions. Please see the ETS website for the most up-to-date information. 

If you are in a region where the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition is not available, the School of Graduate Studies will temporarily accept the Duolingo English Test (DET) to satisfy the English language proficiency requirement. This is restricted to graduate admission to the Fall 2020 session and only applies to applicants from these regions.

IMPORTANT: TOEFL iBT should be used as the preferred test in any country where it is available. We will not accept the Duolingo English Test from those countries.

SGS will accept Duolingo English Tests taken after February 1, 2020 if the results are received by the graduate program’s deadline. Applicants from the affected regions who were offered admission on the condition of satisfying English language proficiency requirements may use the Duolingo English Test to satisfy the condition; scores need to be received by the deadline specified in the condition.

The minimum acceptable score for the Duolingo English Test is 120. When completing the Duolingo English Test, please select “University of Toronto” from the institution list to ensure your results are made available to the University. More information about the Duolingo English Test can be found on their website.

Student Services

GCAC Courses: Winter term classes have started again online and the next round of courses will begin in May with registration opening in late April.

GCAC Workshops: Workshops will start online on April 16th. While some workshops will be live at specific times, others will be recorded and available at your convenience. Registration for online workshops will be required.

GCAC Writing Centre: The Writing Centre will remain open; however, appointments will be offered online rather than in-person.

#GCACWrites: Please join us on our Twitter Write Along sessions.

For updates on coming workshops and course registration, watch this site or join our listserv to receive weekly updates.

Click here to visit the GCAC website. 

Please visit the Graduate Professional Development website, including the Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program and the 3 Minute Thesis competition, to learn about virtual offerings.

While the University is closed, TCard Services is offering some services online to assist new students in obtaining their UTORid activation instructions. For more details on all the services they are offering remotely during the University closure, please visit the TCard website.

Contact Us

SGS services including Admissions Support, Student Academic Services, Graduate Awards & Financial Aid, Program Completion, Health & Wellness and Accessibility Services continue to be available through virtual appointments, email, phone and video-conferencing during regular business hours which are Monday to Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Extended hours on Tuesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. are temporarily suspended until further notice.

Contact us below or visit our staff directory

Area Contact 
Student Academic Services Office 416-978-6614 / graduate.information@utoronto.ca 
Admission Application Inquiries 416-978-7756 / admissions.sgs@utoronto.ca 
Admissions and International Student Advisors sgs.international@utoronto.ca 
Graduate Awards Office 416-946-0808 / graduate.awards@utoronto.ca 
Financial Aid & Advising 416-978-2839 / sgs.financial.assistance@utoronto.ca 
Graduate Program Completion Offices Doctoral:  416-978-5258 / sgs.doctoral@utoronto.ca 
Masters: 416-978-2377 sgs.masters@utoronto.ca 
Postdoctoral Office 416-946-0808 / sgs.postdoc@utoronto.ca 

Not finding what you’re looking for? Email us. 

Letters from the Dean

Date issued: May 15, 2020

Dear graduate student community,  

It’s been close to eight weeks since the School of Graduate Studies paused its campus-based activities and started to work remotely. It feels like a lifetime.  

In that time, many things have happened. Some of you have moved or travelled home. You’ve set up home offices in kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, or wherever you’re reading this. You became at-home teachers and caregivers to loved ones of all ages. You’ve turned in final papers and completed your exams. You’ve adjusted your research plans. You’ve done things you never thought you’d do, like baking sourdough, starting an at-home fitness routine, or meditating. And if you’re anything like me, you started all those things with the best of intentions but have found that making these changes has not been easy.

Remarkably, over this time, more than 140 of your graduate classmates have virtually defended their theses. Close to 4,000 of you will have completed your course requirements and are set to virtually convocate  June 2. Amalia Gil of the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, won U of T’s 3 Minute Thesis competition with her compelling presentation on identifying distractions in surgery with eye-tracking. Indeed, I’ve heard countless other ways people and departments across U of T are experimenting, organizing, innovating, supporting others, and rising in these unprecedented times. 

While we celebrate these achievements, we also recognize that it hasn’t been easy to have our lives upended. The sense of uncertainty that we all feel right now has taken a significant toll. Within our community, some are at the front lines of the health emergency, either because they have lost loved ones or fallen sick themselves, or because they’re braving the risks of exposure in hospitals and other sites of essential services at a time when personal protective equipment is still not always available. It’s important that we keep these people in mind.  

Away from the front lines, some are much more profoundly affected than others. And since this is a cascading event, with the health emergency giving rise to an economic crisis and a reordering of social relations, the impacts extend well beyond the immediate risks posed by the virus. Pre-existing vulnerabilities and inequalities have been amplified and new dimensions of vulnerability and inequality have been layered upon them.  

To appreciate this unevenness, one need only think of the very different realities currently faced by various members of the graduate student community. Many can work from home and are eligible for government supports. Others aren’t eligible for government supports, have lost outside jobs, and find themselves experiencing significant financial hardships. And those with caregiver responsibilities or accessibility challenges may be finding it particularly challenging to work from home and advance their academic work. Letters I have received in recent weeks from both students and faculty alike have all drawn attention to the need to keep these distinctions in mind as we chart our path forward. 

Addressing these challenges in a fair and sustainable way requires creativity and flexibility on all our parts. In collaboration with our student advisory bodies, graduate councils, working groups, and others from the U of T community, we’ve been developing principles, processes, and supports to allow those most affected by COVID-19 to obtain a range of accommodations. Our approach prioritizes the health, wellness and safety of students; recognizes the diversity in the student body and in learning opportunities; seeks to minimize the financial impact of disruptions on students while facilitating their academic progress; and recognizes that the impacts of COVID-19 on students are both uneven and evolving, so won’t be fully known for some time.  

Here are some resources we have put in place to support graduate students in both the research and professional streams:

In addition to these general resources, let me describe how we have been addressing some of the particular needs of professional students, research-stream students, and students with personal circumstances that are affecting their academic progress during COVID-19 (caregiving responsibilities, illness, disability, etc.).  

Students in professional programs

Since professional students generally move through their programs as a cohort and many such cohorts move in ‘lockstep’, the impacts of COVID-19 have often required program-level responses that could be available to all students at particular points in their program. For example, in those professional programs where placements or performances simply could not take place, adjustments have been made to ensure students are still able to meet their program requirements in a timely way. Where this means extending studies beyond the program length, arrangements have been made to ensure students don’t have to pay additional tuition. (Students in those professional programs with major research components and who experience disruptions may benefit from reading the section below).

Students in research-stream programs

The experiences of our research-stream students and those professional students who are engaged in research are harder to characterize in general terms. There are many who, due to the stage of their program or the nature of their research, are continuing to make meaningful academic progress. This could be because their course work, research, or writing can readily be done remotely; or it could be because they have found ways to re-order the sequencing of their planned program of work, or to pivot it in a way that allows the disruption to be managed. For many, these adjustments will carry them through to the end of their program, which is great.

But I have heard from a good number of students who say that although they can remain productive for the time being, they are worried about what will happen if they reach a point when they have exhausted all their alternatives and can’t progress anymore. What then?    

More distressing still are reports of students who are already hitting that wall: a lab-based student who has lost years of usable data with the temporary closure of a lab’s work; a student who had recently embarked on an extended international field research project only to have it cut short, before meaningful progress could be made; a student whose research partnership with industry was abruptly halted, leaving them in the lurch. Students in these circumstances may be able to pause their work or pivot to a related project, but they will be wondering what this might mean for their time to degree, their funding, and their obligations vis-a-vis tuition and fees.

These examples illustrate why the institutional response to these challenges needs to take an individual approach. It should start with a conversation between a student and their supervisor/supervisory committee, and be ongoing, recognizing that a student who is currently able to adapt to the conditions of the pandemic may eventually be unable to progress, depending on how things evolve. (Or more optimistically: how a student who has just hit a wall in their research may find out in retrospect that it was a surmountable one!) This approach will allow the institutional response to be proportionate to the problems each student is facing.

SGS asks that a student and their supervisor/supervisory committee take a staged approach to addressing any potential research interruption.

  • First, assess and document the interruption (SGS has already distributed a COVID-19 mentoring record to assist with this, so please check it out) and take steps to transition to other academic activities where progress can be made.
  • Once this approach has reached the limits of its usefulness, consider pivoting the research by revising the research questions, the methods of data collection, or analyses, as some examples. A number of Faculties are making plans to offer new COVID-19 research pivot funding to assist with additional costs associated with this. Some may have this funding in place as soon as July.
  • Finally, should it become necessary, request registration with a tuition fee exemption. A student who was making good progress with their dissertation, but whose data collection or access to necessary sources/materials has been significantly impeded, who has completed all feasible alternative academic activities, and who ends up requiring additional time beyond the program length will have tuition fees waived (non-tuition ancillary and incidental fees will still be charged). Students may also be able to pair this support with new or existing funding available through their department or Faculty. This might include, for example, a Doctoral Completion Award, RAships/TAships/GRAships, PI stipendiary support, emergency grants, and/or new COVID-19 research completion funding that some Faculties are putting in place.

Students with personal circumstances affecting academic progress

We are keenly aware that COVID-19 has had multiple impacts on students’ personal lives. Some students are attempting to maintain academic progress while also serving on the frontlines of the healthcare system, caring for dependent family members, or managing illness or disability that may be caused or exacerbated by the pandemic. The economic disruption has created financial crises for many. In addition, the directive to stay at home has altered the conditions under which students are attempting to complete their academic work, often with negative consequences for their productivity.

These personal circumstances, like research disruption, may require interventions like transitioning, pivoting or extending time to complete degree requirements. Students should be aware that personal circumstances can be the basis for exercising options like taking a personal leave, altering the order of academic activities, or seeking extensions for coursework or completing milestone academic tasks. Students in such situations also may be eligible for COVID-19 student bursaries or grants offered by Faculties or by SGS.

Please also know that we will continue to evaluate our approaches in all these areas and to adapt them to the changing circumstances as they unfold.

Looking ahead

As talk turns to relaxing social distancing measures, and the possible resumption of some in-person research and learning activities that had been paused, we have heard concerns from students about what this will mean for them. SGS, with direct student input, and in collaboration with the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, has already started work on establishing clear principles and protocols for the return to labs, in-person and field research that prioritize student safety and consider the needs of students to progress through their programs. SGS is also collaborating with the Office of the Vice-Provost, Academic Programs, to ensure planning for courses in the Fall takes account of graduate students’ multiple roles as students, researchers, and TAs. We will do all we can to make sure these upcoming transitions are as smooth and transparent as possible for everyone, and respect student interests.

As the pandemic continues to impact your life and shape our world, I invite you to explore the SGS COVID-19 page and the links below. Please don’t hesitate to email us to let us know how you’re doing and how we can continue to support you on this journey. 

With tremendous care and support,  

Joshua Barker 
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and  
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education 

Key Links and Contacts

Date issued: April 13, 2020

Dear Graduate Students & Supervisors,

We understand that research-stream graduate students and their supervisors may have concerns about how the COVID-19 epidemic is impacting graduate research and how this will in turn affect students’ academic progress through their programs. Already, most U of T labs have paused their work, research involving direct contact with participants has been paused (or methodologies changed), libraries have closed their physical locations, and research travel has been curtailed. In addition, students and faculty with caregiving responsibilities have had to adapt to school/daycare closures and other challenges. While we do not know how long this situation will last, it is prudent to be planning for the likelihood that social distancing measures and travel restrictions, in one form or another, will be part of our research landscape for some time yet.

As such, the School of Graduate Studies asks that supervisors/advisors and their research-stream Master’s and Ph.D. students plan to have an online mentoring meeting to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the student’s research plans and academic progress. Strategies to mitigate this impact, if needed, should be discussed and recorded. For doctoral students, this mentoring meeting may be part of the Annual Progress Report meeting; or it may be a special meeting. Click here for the online COVID-19 Mentoring Meeting Record Form or visit the Supervision Guidelines page for a supplemental Word version of the form to document the results of this meeting. When completed, please return it to your Graduate Coordinator, no later than May 15, 2020.  

For the graduate student and their supervisor, this mentoring meeting is not only an important check-in, but in light of this disruption, it will also help to ensure that students and supervisors have an opportunity to discuss any concerns that have emerged due to these unanticipated events. Collectively, the information gathered through this exercise will inform ongoing planning by departments, divisions and institutional leaders aimed at supporting students’ academic progress in these challenging times. To address the needs of students whose research has been seriously impacted by COVID-19, we are considering employing a range of tools, such as: program extensions, tuition waivers, research pivot bursaries, and research completion bursaries. Students in the funded cohort need to know that the commitments outlined in their annual funding letters, including research stipendiary payments, continue to remain in effect.

Since this pandemic is still unfolding, we expect the full impacts on much graduate research will only become known with time. For continuing students, we are therefore planning now for a follow-up mentoring meeting in October.

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education

Date issued: March 17, 2020

Dear Graduate Students,

We understand that some graduate students are faced with difficult decisions regarding whether to leave University of Toronto campuses, and/or the city, and return home, given the increasing challenges with travel arrangements and advice around social distancing. While each student has a unique set of circumstances and will have to evaluate their own situation, the University is taking steps to ensure most graduate activity can continue to take place without having to be present on campus. Here is an update on where things currently stand:

Graduate Courses

As of March 16 and continuing until at least April 3, all graduate courses across U of T’s three campuses are being delivered through alternative means (which may include existing online platforms). Students are receiving details about courses and revised session dates from their graduate program directly. Please contact your program with any questions.

Departmental Examinations

Most departmental examinations (e.g. qualifying, comprehensive, and/or general examinations) can take place without physical presence. More information will follow from your graduate program regarding arrangements for the completion of departmental examinations in your program.

Placements, Internships and Other Program Requirements

Please refer to your graduate program for further information.

Final Oral Examinations for Doctoral Students

For doctoral students with scheduled final oral examinations, SGS will make accommodations to allow these examinations to proceed as scheduled without physical presence. Alternatively, we will offer the option of postponement.

Graduate Research

We understand that this is a highly stressful time for many of you and we remain committed to providing you with highly engaged academic support. The University is advising that all lab-based research operations must be shut down no later than 5 PM, Friday March 20, 2020, other than critical COVID-19 research and time-sensitive critical projects. Other research settings, including many off-campus sites, are also shutting down. Please stay informed of the status of activities in your own research setting. In many cases, plans for future research may also need to be changed and contingency plans developed. Consult with your research supervisor about your planning. Please also consult the website of the Office of Vice-President Research and Innovation which will be updated daily.

Students in International Locations

The University is monitoring developments involving COVID-19, including the Canadian government’s latest advisory that it is time to return to your home country. If you are a graduate student undertaking university activity outside of Canada and are registered with U of T Safety Abroad, you will have received a message from Safety Abroad recently. Safety Abroad has heard from many of you. If you have not yet responded, please do so.

Please note that the Government of Canada has announced that non-Canadians and non-Permanent Residents of Canada will not be able to enter Canada on flights scheduled to arrive after 12:00 p.m., March 18, 2020. Safety Abroad is supporting travel adjustments and students who have already responded to the recent message do not need to resend. Safety Abroad will reach out to you if you have completed the form for a flight. If you have booked your own flight, please send Safety Abroad a copy of your ticket and let them know when you have safely landed. You may be able to apply for emergency bursary support to assist with additional travel costs. If you are registered with U of T Safety Abroad and have not received an email, please check your @mail.utoronto.ca email inbox and respond as soon as possible.

If you are currently outside Canada on university activity and have not registered with U of T Safety Abroad, please contact safety.abroad@utoronto.ca immediately. If you are returning or have just returned to Canada, please follow public health guidance for 14-days of self-isolation.

Libraries and Graduate Spaces

Selected libraries remain open, with limited hours, limited services, social distancing measures, and with access restricted to U of T users. For up to date information, please refer to the University of Toronto Libraries COVID-19 webpage. All University buildings will be closed as of 11:59 p.m., March 17, 2020 to the general public, members of the University community will need key or fob access to enter the buildings or present University identification to campus security. We advise all students to practice social distancing in line with the advice given by Public Health authorities. Please consider carefully how this advice applies to your own circumstances and adjust your routines accordingly.

Graduate Funding and TAships

Funded graduate students, including those on stipends, will continue to receive their funding packages as stated in their funding letters. Current TA contracts may need to be adjusted to reflect the fact that undergraduate courses are no longer in-person, but the overall number of hours allocated in the contracts will not be reduced.

Emergency Funds

If you are experiencing immediate financial hardship, you can apply for an SGS emergency loan or emergency grant. We are usually able to pay out emergency loans within 24-hours and emergency grants within one week.

SGS Student Services

SGS operations continue with modifications in how we deliver our services. We are now offering virtual and phone appointments in lieu of in-person appointments. Full updates are available here.

Your Safety and Community Safety

The University’s response is guided by the need to ensure the health of our community and, as much as possible, the continuity of our graduate activities. If you feel compelled by anyone to do something that, under the circumstances, feels unsafe, please contact your graduate Chair immediately to seek resolution. You may also contact the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies directly at sgs.dean@utoronto.ca.

Accessibility

Graduate students registered with Accessibility Services should continue to contact Accessibility Services to receive accommodations and supports.

Monitoring COVID-19 Updates

We will update this SGS page regularly with important updates for U of T’s graduate community. Check the University of Toronto’s coronavirus updates and frequently asked questions pages for updates relevant to the whole U of T community, including links to travel advisories and public health guidance on self-isolation. It is also important to stay up to date with the advice provided by your department/Faculty. We know this situation brings a whole new level of stress for everyone – and some will feel this harder than others. Please know that if you are struggling, there are excellent resources you can use. The University has a list of helpful Quick Links to health resources.

Sincerely,

Joshua Barker
Dean, School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Research and Education